Published: 2015, 2015, 2016, 2016, 2016 respectively
Genre(s): YA, fantasy, romance
Read as: ebook, Kindle Unlimited
Rating: 4, 3, 4, 3.5, 4 respectively
Series rating: 4
I don’t believe I have ever reviewed an entire series at once before but now is a good time to give it a go. Why? Because even though I obviously read these books individually, I binged the entire five book series in five days. At this point the story is one unbroken flow in my brain and I couldn’t begin to tell you where one book stopped and the next began so we are just going to dive in and see what happens.
First of all, I very much enjoyed these book which I am sure you can tell since I read them practically non stop for nearly a week. Currently I am at a point where I want to read things that are easy for my brain to process. Nothing overly complicated or with fifteen different back stories and a bushel of side characters to keep mental track on. I just don’t have that processing power right now. But, even if a story is more simple, it still needs to be engaging and entertaining and this series managed exactly that.
Our heroine, Vhalla, is a trope that causes some people cringe but I can’t say that it is one that particularly bothers me. She is Not Like Other Girls and also somewhat fills the Chosen One trope as well. These books came out in 2015 and 2016 when those concepts were huge selling points so if you can take that with a grain of salt then you will be just fine. Vhalla has special powers that people thought had been killed off from the world; she has the ability to control air. Create tornados, manipulate wind, move things by manipulating the air currents…you get the idea. There are also people in this world who can control fire, water, and earth. Overall not the most unique magic system but fun to read about none the less.
Vhalla, after a series of unfortunate events (and some minor sexy ones), is indentured to the emperor to fight in his war against a neighboring kingdom. Something I like about this series is Vhalla’s character development as the story progresses. At first she is a relatively shy, sheltered young woman who just prefers the company of books to people (I think that is something most of us can relate to). She isn’t sure if she wants these powers and spends time (perhaps a little too much of it) deciding whether she wants this air magic removed from her which is something that can happen if she chooses. Obviously, she decides to keep her magic. Would have been quite the short series otherwise.
Throughout the story Vhalla displays such bravery in the face of some terrible circumstances. She always tries to be the better person and shows kindness and compassion to those around here even if they do no always deserve it. Sometimes her kind and giving heart got a little annoying but for the most part it was interesting to see her try to maintain those aspects of herself even when things, namely the war and death that surrounded her, became overwhelming. There were of course times when she did make bad choices but she tended to reflect on those choices and attempt to better herself. Some of my favorite scenes were when Vhalla would have a contemplative moment and look back on things she or those around her had done and she would try to make sense of them or ponder how she could have done things better. I love when characters learn from their mistakes.
Something that I had a love/hate relationship with in this book was the romance. Now, in case you don’t know, I adore romantic fantasy stories. I gobble them up like a holiday dinner, nomnomnom. The love interest in this book, Aldrik, gave me some conflicted emotions. Aldrik is the crown prince and possesses fire magic. He is viewed by his people to be harsh and more than a little soulless. Sometimes I could understand his actions when it came to Vhalla as he tried to help her grow and understand her magic. He was serious about his task and genuinely wanted her to become better with that magic so that she could protect herself. Aldrik is a damaged character with a lot of emotional trauma, as most YA love interests are, and he does not handle it well.
Aldrik was, dare I say it…emotionally and mentally abusive. Sometimes he would shine as a kind and generous man, capable of great things and then he would go right back on his moody nonsense. Through the course of five books he hurt Vhalla so many times both emotionally and physically and it was played off as trying to protect her and that bothered me a great deal. She always ended up forgiving him, of course, even when he didn’t deserve it. While I did enjoy this series as a whole I still acknowledge that this was a huge red flag abusive relationship.
The other aspect of this story that rubbed me the wrong way were needless deaths. I am fully on board to kill off a major character if it makes sense for the plot. However, there were two major deaths in this series that just seemed to be for the shock factor alone and that is not something I enjoy. If killing these characters had created some kind of turning point in the story or been used as a vehicle to push the plot in a new direction I would have been fine with it but that just didn’t happen. All these two character death’s ensured was more moodiness from Mr. Abusive which was not exactly something we needed more of.
Overall, despite a few negatives, I still liked this series. Vhalla’s strength and determination was really the driving factor in this book although I do wish she had developed more of a backbone when it came to the romantic points. If you are looking for a simple YA fantasy read I would recommend these books as long as you go in understanding that there is emotional abuse involved. At the end of the day, they still brought me some measure of joy and comfort and left me with a bit of a book hangover and that is all I can really ask for.